Staying Up Late Can Give Kids Cavities

Dentistry Today


Adolescents who stay up late are almost 4 times as likely to suffer from tooth decay, according to a study from Sweden. Its researchers believe the increased risk is due to these children neglecting to brush their teeth regularly before bed and frequently skipping breakfast, leading to snacking throughout the day.

A group of 196 adolescents who were 15 or 16 years old completed a questionnaire about their circadian rhythms, dietary habits, oral hygiene, and demographic variables. Next, they were divided into those who were alert in the evening and tired in the morning, morning types who were the opposite, and those who weren’t particularly alert in the evening or extremely tired in the morning.

The researchers reported that 50% of the subjects were neutral, while 37% were evening types and only 13% were morning types. The neutral and morning types had breakfast and brushed twice a day more frequently. The evening types were characterized with a greater risk of caries by a factor of 3.8.

The researchers said that circadian rhythms should be considered when planning oral health education for adolescents with a high risk of caries. Also, the Oral Health Foundation encourages parents to ensure that their children understand the importance of brushing before bed and the wider impact that tooth decay can have if they fail to do so.

“If you tend to fall asleep before your children, evidence suggests there is a real danger that they are not brushing their teeth regularly or properly,” said Nigel Carter, OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation. “Combined with the resulting lie-in and subsequently skipping breakfast, this is a real recipe for disaster.”

In addition to tooth decay, Carter said, oral problems can affect the way that children communicate, their relationships, their development, and their wider general health. Brushing twice a day for 2 minutes each with a fluoride toothpaste and regular visits to the dentist, he added, could prevent these issues.

The study, “Do Adolescents Who Are Night Owls Have a Higher Risk of Dental Caries? A Case-Control Study,” was published by the International Journal of Dental Hygiene.

Related Articles

Teens Who “Vape” More Likely to Try Tobacco

Teens Avoid Sugary Beverages With Health Warning Labels

Research Suggests Drinking Milk After Sweet Snacks to Fight Decay